The public outpouring has been in many ways unsurprising. Australians love their Cricket and venerate their favourite players... in High Schools around Australia, members of the Australian team have their fangirls... I taught a few in my time as a Modern History Teacher.
The team gets to meet the Queen, they play for the PM, they travel to far-flung corners of the globe and play in the most inhospitable climates imaginable (Madras Test 1986 anyone?)... One might almost say that Mad Dogs and Cricketers go out in the midday sun...
But this death, and my own reaction to it, has me more than a little puzzled. This man was not one I had ever met. I had seen him play on TV but not in person... He wasn't one I had watched with particular attention, except to notice that he was good, but kept getting dropped from the side. He wasn't someone I had ever met, or ever expected to meet in the future.
So why then, am I so upset by it? Reading all the articles about the accident, watching all the interviews, favouriting tweets by other famous players who did know him...? Tearing up over tributes by Richie Benaud and Michael Clarke?
I don't know really.
I can't say.
Is it growing awareness of my own mortality? Maybe.
Is it the shocking thought that I may outlive one or all of my own children? Possibly.
Is it growing awareness of the inevitability of other grief to come? Definitely.
This grief we share for the untimely death of Phil Hughes seems to be collective realisation of universal mortality.
We mourn the ending of our own lives.
Our own youths.
Our own days of playing Cricket in the park with friends...or surfing at the beach with friends...or playing footy in the playground with friends... or playing... or ... or... or...
The end of our age of innocence, our age of play and fun, the end of our seemingly endless summer holidays punctuated with the voices of Tony Greig, Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell.
Tony's voice is forever silenced. Bill's heard more rarely. Chappelli is still a stalwart of the commentary team, but Richie?
Richie is old. Old and sick. Old and sick and injured. We hear his much beloved voice less and less as time goes on. It will be a sad day indeed when his voice is forever silenced. Cricket will be without its Grandfather. Its Elder Statesman.
In a sense, the idea of losing Richie (inevitable though it may be) is too hard to fathom. The idea of that national grief is too scary, too much like losing a member of our own family. So we embrace the grief of losing someone we barely knew. Someone we liked but didn't venerate or revere in anywhere near the same way in which we do Richie. Someone who may very well have had a long and illustrious career wearing the baggy green, even in front of the camera as a commentator... but whose future was cut short.
At the moment, we have a future. A future in which we can still play Cricket with our friends at the park... surf at the beach... play with our kids...play footy... play... ... ...